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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Weekly Gardening Column


QUESTION: I have a question about coffee grounds. I've been collecting them for my flower garden. Can you tell me in what way should they be used, and on which types of flowers?

ANSWER: You can use them in several ways. Probably the best method would be to compost them with other kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves & etc. and use the compost as a soil additive. Or you can incorporate them into the soil where they will decompose and provide the plants (and earthworms) with nutrition. And lastly, you can use them as a mulch on the top of the ground.

They will be of benefit to any and all of your flowers.

QUESTION: Two years ago I topped my Dracaena (corn plant) because it was too tall. I planted the top in my flowerbed and when it started to grow again I potted it and moved it onto my screen porch. Last week I noticed that it was blooming and I have never seen one bloom before. The plant I topped had been in our family for more than 20 years. Do you know why it is blooming? Do you know if the dark color balls will open up and expose more color? Will the plant die after it blooms or will it pup? The bloom is a long spike type and is now growing about 2 inches a day with a sticky residue. Can you send or direct me to more information about this?

ANSWER: In ample light, the corn plant (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana') may occasionally produce an extremely fragrant flower. It is not a member of the bromeliad family, so it should not die after flowering. When the flower is spent, just cut off the spike. See this web site for more information and a picture of the flower:

QUESTION: I understand that Hybrid Musks can take a little more shade than other roses. Are any of these Hybrid Musks better than the others in terms of thriving (and blooming) in filtered sun?

ANSWER: In my opinion, the hybrid musk/shade connection is a marketing hoax. I never noticed any difference personally. That statement was dreamed up when I was at the Rose Emporium. They ARE good, tough, low maintenance roses however. Mostly lax mounding/climbing habits.
- Greg Grant, San Antonio Botanical Garden

QUESTION: I am interested in easy to manage "IPM" systems for gardens (vegetables, flowers, grass, etc.) and this information might be of interest to the Texas residents as well. My children and I do a small "teaching" garden with vegetables and I need some help on an integrated IPM system. We use marigolds, ladybugs, bees, 7% wood ashes, and for the rodents we have the cat and dog. Also, the past residents of our home planted roses and we will not subject the children and animals to the amount of chemicals needed to keep them going. Is there anyway to help these flowers with IPM? We do not need "perfect flowers", but we may just have to cut them down.

ANSWER: The following Plantanswers information should be of use to you in you IPM garden approach.

QUESTION: Our lawn is overrun with weeds, and we have the opportunity to start over with grass to make a real lawn. We have shallow, rocky soil, and no interest in spending much time caring for a lawn. What is the best, low maintenance, low water usage and low?growing grass for our area?

ANSWER: I am afraid that with 'shallow, rocky soil and no interest in caring for a lawn', you are just about doomed to live with a weedy unkempt area. To have a weed free, nice looking turf takes time, effort and in shallow soil, a goodly amount of water. If the lawn is in full to mostly sunshine, I recommend a Bermuda grass called 'Baby Bermuda' for a low?growing grass. It is a hybrid that must be established by sod. Once established, it will probably survive on rainfall and will need less mowing than many of the grasses. If you have a shady yard, then I recommend one of the wide- bladed zoysias (El Toro or JaMur).

QUESTION: I am fatally allergic to bees, wasps, etc, so I have never planted anything that flowers. One article suggested "wind?pollinated" plants, such as orange and lemon trees. I was really hoping to find perennial flowers and shrubs. Other than going through a list of plants that DO attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, I can't think of any other solution. Is there any resource that lists wind?pollinated plants? Also, I have heard that killer bees are very close to this part of Texas, so I want to be extra careful not to plant anything that will attract these more aggressive types.

ANSWER: What you need to use are plants that are ornamental yet do not bloom much. These include caladiums, coleus, purple shield, copper plants, etc.

QUESTION: I have a 3-year-old (or older) saucer magnolia that does not flower. What can I do to make it flower?

ANSWER: My resources say that the Magnolia soulangiana (Saucer Magnolia) should bloom at age 3 to 5 years. Since these things are not an open and shut science, I suspect that patience is going to be the solution.

QUESTION: I purchased an ornamental pine tree for Christmas this year, so I would not be responsible for killing a tree at Christmas. It did really well through February, but it is now getting real pale and turning brown. I realize it must need some kind of fertilizer, but I do not know what kind. It has been getting indirect light in my front hallway. Can you tell me how to care for it before it dies.

ANSWER: You do not give enough information for me to determine what kind of pine you have. I suspect that it is a Norfolk Island Pine. Regardless, I think that your tree is probably suffering from lack of light. You should move it to a location where it gets a lot of light. You can probably safely move it outside but just remember to bring it back into a protected location is a freeze is predicted. Any of the water soluble plant foods will be fine for it. I recommend that you fertilize it each time you water it using a very dilute mixture (perhaps 1 teaspoon per gallon of water).

QUESTION: Is there any way I can keep my pear tree from bearing pears or at least minimize how many pears there are?

ANSWER: There is not really a good way to keep it from fruiting once it starts. However, you can drastically thin the crop to reduce the amount of fruit you have. Take a broom to the tree and simply "beat" the fruit off about 4 weeks after bloom. This will reduce the remaining fruit and they will be better quality. When you do this you will set yourself up for a big crop the next year, so it will be a continuous thing from year to year.

QUESTION: I love your Moon Planting Guides. I print them out and give them to friends who also love them! I was wondering where you get the specific information to tell you when to plant certain vegetables. My grandmother planted by the signs and her garden was always lush and productive, so I would like to do an experiment to find out if it really was from planting by the signs, or the homemade fish emulsion and experience. I have gathered some info from the Internet, but it just says basics like Cancer and Scorpio are best for planting, Taurus is second best, Leo is barren and shouldn't be planted in, plant above?ground bearing crops in the light of the moon, root crops in the dark of the moon, etc. I would like to know specifically which signs and moon quarters are best for broccoli, which for beans, which for flowers, etc. Your guides seem to be the most specific info I've found.

ANSWER: I give the specific signs for each of the vegetables, fruits and flowers. My source, which is also listed on the Moon Planting site, is the 1999 Llewellyn's Moon Sign Book and Gardening Almanac. It is available in major bookstores or can be ordered from Llewellyn Publications, P. O. box 64383 Dept. 941-5, St. Paul, MN 55164-0383 U.S.A. The publication number is ISBN 1-56718-941-5. Enjoy your lunatical gardening adventures!!

QUESTION: My rubber tree (as well as a palm) are getting much too tall for my living room. I know there is a method of cutting a branch and connecting it to a shorter branch. What is it called and how is it done? Will it be possible for me to get information on how to do this?

ANSWER: What you describe is called 'grafting'. However, I do not think this is what you want to do with either your rubber tree or your palm. The rubber tree (Ficus elastica) can be reduced in height by merely cutting off the top portion to the height you desire. This will force outside branches and one of these can be trained to be your central leader. Or, if you cut to one that is already growing, it can be so trained. By pinching out the end of this central leader, you can make the plant bushier. If you wish to root the top portion and start a new plant, you can 'air layer' this portion. See the instructions at this web site:

You should be aware that all Ficus plants exude a white milky sap when cut or wounded. You need to protect the floor and also try not to get the sap on your skin as some people are allergic to it.